Thursday, 30 December 2010

We're featured in Devon Life magazine...and we've had excellent feedback for our training

Take a peek at the newly published January 2011 edition of Devon Life magazine...and you'll find a 3 page feature (from page 72) entitled "Training on the Hoof". It's an article about the Animal Rescue Unit of the Devon and Somerset Fire Service, and features the training day we held for them in September...

...And we are delighted to report that we had excellent official feedback about our first Equine Animal Rescue training day. We received 100% ratings for the quality of the staff, and the relevancy of the training for their role...closely followed by 27/28 for participants feeling equipped to directly apply knowledge gained on the course.

The Unit gets called out to some extremely dangerous situations, many of which are nightmare situations for horse owners. It's great to know that there are people you can call on for help in an emergency.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Well, we've certainly had festive weather! With two separate fallings of snow over a couple of weeks and multiple nights when it was -10°C by 7pm, conditions have been somewhat challenging! Getting to the farm has been rather like going on an arctic expedition, but the ponies are so well equipped for the conditions. Their thick, woolly coats have done a brilliant job of keeping them warm and extra rations of hay have kept them busy. This time the snow was a "non-clingy" type so we didn't need to rescue them from snowballs accumulating on the ends of their tails!

We (myself and the ponies) would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy 2011. We've had great fun in 2010 and have really enjoyed meeting so many lovely people and equines.

Understanding Horses plans for next year are currently in progress and will be posted here very soon!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The magic of wild ponies

I must say that wild ponies are very special, and will always have a special place in my heart. Much of our work is based on what we learn from them and their instincts, and for that I am very grateful.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Rocky goes to church!

Last weekend our local church in East Worlington was having a pet service, welcoming all creatures great and small. We were invited to attend alongside the cats, dogs, chickens and rabbits...which was quite lucky really, as 2 years ago Rocky mistook a church floral decoration of marram grass to be a rather conveniently, and thoughtfully placed, snack...and scoffed a mouthful of it! This year we were more careful about the floral decorations and all were left intact! Actually, the parishioners were rather grateful to Rocky and Frodo for doing some lawn trimming in the graveyard, as they carefully tidied up some of the areas of longer grass.

Rocky and Frodo were very well behaved. They greeted the parishioners nicely, and were both rewarded with some carrot.

Equine Body Language and Behaviour course

Having a fairly dry October and November has allowed us to continue running our outdoors courses into the autumn. We had perfect weather for our Understanding Horses "Body Language and Behaviour" course on 12th October. Next year we are going to run this course over a weekend, as our clients often say that they would like more time observing the herd.
On this occasion there was a bit of a slow start to the behaviour as the ponies had just changed fields!! They were so pleased at the sight of extra grass, that was their initial priority!

As it happened, a kite was being launched in the adjoining field, something our ponies had never seen before and that changed the situation. Little Frodo learnt a lesson this day...he had already chosen to leave the herd and escape through the electric fence into an area with more grass (escaping through electric fences is one of his specialities!). Some of the ponies weren't that frightened of the kite, and didn't move far from their grazing. Frodo was initially not that bothered about the kite flying around him, but once his companions on the other side of the fence moved away to better grazing, he was left on his own with the kite, he had a bit of a panic. After a short bout of running around, he came back through the fence (leaving it all perfectly intact) and back to the herd. He didn't leave them again for the rest of the day, so he learnt an important lesson that day, even if it was short lived!

Our course participants were able to interact with our herd of ponies, learning how to communicate with them, how to move them around, how to catch "difficult" horses and, as always, we included important aspects of horse psychology.
We had excellent feedback ratings about our course:
"Overall a most enjoyable day. Thank you."
"The practical experience with the ponies in the field was the most enjoyable for me. Would love to learn more - particularly about handling and relating to traumatised horses."

Talk for Tiverton Saddle Club

On the 6th of October, I made a special visit to Morebath, as I was invited to be a guest speaker for Tiverton Saddle Club. The club were particularly interested in having a talk about horse behaviour and psychology. There are so many interesting aspects that could be covered, and my aim was to keep the talk as interactive as possible. As part of the talk, I included a friendly quiz for members to test their knowledge on horse psychology, how their horses see the world around them, and some of the myths that have grown up in the ways we interact with and manage horses.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Training the Animal Rescue Unit of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

On Monday 27th September, Understanding Horses ran a special Equine Handling training day for Animal Rescue officers from the specialist unit of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. These firefighters do a brilliant job rescuing horses and ponies from very difficult situations. It's very reassuring to know that help is out there, if you are ever unlucky enough to be in an accident where your horse gets stuck.

Our training day mixed theory with lots of practical, hands-on sessions with our ponies. The firefighters were able to experience the difference between getting close to, and handling, domestic equines as well as those that are nervous and fearful.
(Above, Bobby initally feels very worried about the thought of this yellow strop, but within 5 minutes is happily wearing it after firefighter Stan uses our special techniques to prove to Bobby that it's not scary...whilst Frodo (below) can't understand why it is that horses find umbrellas scary (surely it should be some sort of receptacle for food!!))

Topics covered on the day included:
  • Basic horse psychology and instincts of the horse, and how we incorporate these into our techniques for effectiveness and safety.

  • Learning to interpret and read the body language of the horse.

  • How human actions and body language affect and influence the horse.

  • How to use special techniques to approach wary equines and to acclimatise them to unfamiliar equipment.

  • How to safely lead equines and deal with difficult situations or unusual objects.

It was a very enjoyable day, the ponies were brilliant teachers, and the firefighters were quick learners, with some great natural ability. If all goes to plan, we'll run a level 2 training day for them in spring 2011. We had excellent feedback from the firefighters at the end of the day:

"Excellent experience and insight into equine behaviour".

"Practical session of the course was really beneficial, especially advance and retreat".

"Excellent course, very interesting and informative. Ponies very suitable for course".

"The whole course was very enjoyable and relevant to our profession. I feel substantially better equipped to do my job. The horse psychology was fascinating...The teaching was nearly surpassed by the hospitality!!"

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A few more photos...

Here are a few more photos from the September DASH course, courtesy of Kay Wisker (thank you Kay!). DASH have asked me to run some more equine courses for them, starting in spring next year, so there will be another opportunity to do the "Guide to Horse and Pony Management" course as well as a couple of new course options...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Course for the Devon Association of Smallholders

Last Saturday (11th September) Faye ran her course "A Guide to Horse and Pony Management" for members of the Devon Association of Smallholders. Nine participants from all over Devon came to Horseford Farm to learn about different aspects of equine care - from setting up stabling facilities to basic equine healthcare, worming and feeding.

Course participants included horse owners, members considering having equines on their smallholding, and those about to take delivery of their first horses and ponies. It was a lovely group and it was really nice to have a mixture of teenagers and adults. Everyone participated in activites and Faye was on hand to answer questions all day.

The course is designed to cover conventional ways of horse keeping as well as options such as barefoot/shod or chemical wormers/herbal wormers. By giving information about different options, owners can go away and decide what suits them and their horses best.

Faye received excellent feedback from participants for her teaching. Here's some of the feedback from the day:

"Good comprehensive course for complete beginners and "old hands". The whole course was presented in an interesting and informative way".

"Excellent course overall".

"I found out loads more and has been a confidence boost that what I am doing with my pony is OK".

"All great but superb being able to incorporate all the different individual requirements...Given me an idea of other information to look into re barefoot/shod, feeding herbs, natural wormers/conventional types. Thank you so much".

"Thought it was well-balanced and thought out. Good general information".

Individual lessons for confidence building

As well as running one day courses in confidence building, Faye also offers individuals private lessons. Not everyone likes learning in groups, and Faye offers 1:1 private lessons, either at Horseford Farm, or at the client's facilities. Confidence building is one of our specialities. We achieve results because we take time to understand the people and the horses, we equip our students with the knowledge and skills that they need, and we teach at a pace that suits them. Teaching practical aspects "person to person" is really important, and means that people already feel more confident about what they are doing before they start working with the horses and ponies.

Faye received excellent feedback from her teaching last week..."Well communicated by Faye in a relaxed, calm environment. No pressure on me, unhurried, a fun, positive experience! I enjoyed the mix of theory and practical tuition and being able to put skills into action, initially with Faye and then with Bobby, Rocky and Frodo! A great day which left me feeling "Yes, I can do this"! In one session I feel that I have learnt so much. Thank you".

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Fabulous feature in Devon Life magazine

We were very lucky to have Anna Turns from Devon Life magazine come and visit us last month...and her fabulous feature about our courses and Pony Picnics can be found on pages 168-169 of the September issue.

The article highlights our approach to understanding horse behaviour, communication, body language and psychology and how our techniques make a real difference to equines and owners. The great thing is that our techniques work with all horses and ponies - because we are understanding the horses themselves - and this helps us to be better horse handlers, riders and problem solvers. Our courses are allowing us to share this knowledge and help others, which is a real privilege.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Showing Success at "The Brooke"

Last week was a very busy week...on Wednesday I took a rare day out to go and watch Exford Show on Exmoor, particularly to see the Exmoor pony classes and we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of some of Rocky's wild cousins on the way there.

Young handler Millie came to Horseford for 2 training sessions with Frodo. They were entering into classes at the rescue horse and dog show at Knighthayes Court and needed to be working together brilliantly for the classes. Each year I do some training sessions with the people4ponies young handlers to help to prepare for the show, and to make sure they can keep themselves and their ponies safe on the day. Millie is a very quick learner and she makes progress very quickly. One of our challenges was to train Frodo to actually go over a jump rather than just demolishing it!

On Sunday, it was the Brooke Show itself and Mille and Frodo were a great team. They came home with two, first rosettes. They won first place in the child handler class, and went on to win first place in their first ever Horse Agility class. Frodo impressed us with his jumping through the blue hoop obstacle. Well done to both Millie and Frodo, who had a fantastic day! Photos of the both of them in action are below - going through the Horse Agility curtain obstacle, receiving their rosettes in the show ring, and then showing off some of the days winnings at the end!

We had lots of interest in our Understanding Horses courses at the show, particularly in the confidence building and problem solving courses, and it was great to catch up with clients and friends and to get updates on how everyone is getting on.

New blog available for Pony Picnics

As there is so much going on with Pony Picnics at the moment, especially with all the interest and press coverage, it seemed appropriate to give Pony Picnics a blog of it's updates can now be found at and there is a link to it from the main website

We had a fantastic review in last Thursday's Express and Echo, written by deputy editor Richard Birch. In case you missed it...

Taking a walk on wild side with Bobby the rescue pony
"ALL it takes is a confident stride and Bobby will shadow your every move. True, his head can be turned by a particularly attractive patch of cow parsley, but as we stroll through the Devon countryside it is difficult to imagine that this conker-brown pony was once wild. And not just wild; petrified of people due to a trauma he had experienced in his youth. It has taken several years of training and therapy to bring Bobby, now ten, out of his shell and he is now part of the team for a fledgling business that provides a gentle introduction to all things equine..."

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Understanding Horses at "The Brooke" show

Next Sunday (15th August) is the date for "The Brooke" Rescue Horse and Dog show at National Trust property Knightshayes Court, in Tiverton, Devon. It's a great, fun show for the whole family and Understanding Horses will have our own stand to promote our courses and lessons.

The day runs from 10.40-4.30 with parades and classes for the dogs and horses and it's a great opportunity to support local charities, as well as "The Brooke" hospital. This year Vanessa Bee is demonstrating her fantastic new sport "Horse Agility" and taster sessions will be available on the day.

There's still plenty time to enter your rescue horse or pony for the show, but you must enter before Sunday. It's a particularly good, friendly, "first-time" show for equines (or people!) who have never been to a show before. For details, please contact Penny on 01884 254665, or Jane on 01884 861181. Or email:

Look out for Pony Picnics features in the press

Being the first place in the country to run "Pony Picnics" has created quite an exciting story for the media. Throughout July we've had a lot of interest in our "Pony Picnics" project from Westcountry journalists. We've had a news article in the North Devon Journal, and throughout August the paper is running vouchers for our walks and picnics.

A lovely journalist from Devon Life magazine came to visit us (myself and the ponies!) and we are very excited to have an article in the upcoming, September issue of Devon Life.

The deputy editor of the Exeter "Express and Echo" came to experience one of our Cream Tea Walks with his family on Saturday, so look out for our feature/review next week in the Wednesday "Express and Echo".

Busy times!

Well, it's quite difficult to believe that we are in August already, July just flew by! People4ponies held a fantastic Wild Pony Weekend, where 2 traumatised, previously wild ponies came for specialist handling. 5 students came to learn the techniques used to help these ponies. I even did a spot of teaching on Sunday, taking students out into the herd of ponies and enabling them to catch a "difficult to catch" pony by using body language. Bobby was perfect for this, as he would be considered uncatchable by normal standards, but if your interaction with body language is just right, then he will accept you. After practising movements "human to human" in the yard, (with me as Bobby the pony!) students were already well on the way to perfecting their technique when we went out into the field.

Rocky volunteered himself as a demo pony, showing how to teach a young pony to pick up feet - he's very well trained at offering you his feet, but he was a nice, calm pony to demonstate the technique with, having done it all before quite a few years ago now!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Getting ready for Pony Picnicing

Here we are as a team - trek leader Faye in the centre with ponies (from left) Rocky, Muddy, Frodo and Bobby. These ponies all take part in our Understanding Horses courses - each are completely different characters and have their own personalities. Muddy once known for his bolshiness, and for being a "pushy pony", is now reformed and is one of our easy to lead, reliable ponies who is very good in traffic.

Monday, 5 July 2010

"Pony Picnics" is launched!

We are very excited to announce the launch of our new project called Pony Picnics! Come and enjoy an afternoon adventure, with our friendly pack ponies, in the beautiful Devon countryside.

It's a great way to have fun, relax and unwind. Learn to lead your pony, and then we'll guide you on a circular route along the quiet country lanes. You can choose to enjoy a riverside picnic en-route, or delicious Devonshire cream tea on return...or why not try one of our shorter summer evening walks?

No previous experience of horses is necessary, we provide all the necessary safety equipment and there is always an experienced helper for each pony on the trek.

Our excursions are perfect for families, individuals, social groups and, especially, for childrens' parties.

If you've been on one of our Understanding Horses courses and would like a refresher, or more practice with our ponies, this is an extra opportunity for you to continue to build your confidence!

To find out more about Pony Picnics and our pony trekking adventures, please visit, or contact Faye Stacey on 01884 251251.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Advice for horse riders, horse owners and tractor drivers - keeping safe on the roads

Being blessed with such a beautiful summer this year, it's encouraged all of us to make the most of the sunshine. At some stage, it's inevitable that horses and tractors are going to meet each other out on the Devon lanes. For many horses, the only time they will ever encounter tractors and large vehicles will be when they are out on the roads and country lanes. Some of these machines can seem very scary the first time they are encountered.

If drivers of large vehicles and horse owners take a few simple steps, everyone can stay safe, and horses can learn that big machines aren't a problem.

Horse owners:
  • Whether you are leading, riding or driving your horse or pony, make sure you are wearing flourescent gear to make yourself visible to all road users.
  • Make sensible decisions on how it is best to pass a vehicle. It is better to face vehicles to pass them. Decide whether:
  1. There is plenty of room (at least a car's width) to pass the vehicle where it is in the lane.
  2. You need to go back along the lane to a layby or wider section.
  3. You need to use hand signals to ask drivers to stop or slow down.
  4. Getting off and leading your horse might be the best way to help your horse pass a vehicle.
  • Have a positive attitude - being confident that you can deal with a situation will really help your horse. Horses should not be beaten or hit for refusing to pass a scary vehicle - this will lead to an association of fear with the situation.
  • Always thank drivers for their considerate driving.
  • After you have passed a tractor or large vehicle, turn to face it, and as it starts to move away from you, let your horse follow it for a few strides. This will help to create a more positive association for your horse.

Drivers of tractors and large vehicles:
  1. Approach horses slowly and with care, and always stop to allow horses to pass you. Stopping will always be the safest option.
  2. If you are following a horse which is moving towards the nearest layby or wider part of lane, keep well back to avoid the horse feeling it is being chased. If you can see the horse's head bending to the left or right to keep an eye on your vehicle, or that it is starting to rush and panic, this means that you are too close. Just back off a bit. This will prevent a situation from escalating.
  3. Give a horse, or pony, at least the same amount of room you would allow for a car to pass alongside your vehicle in a lane.
  4. Be aware that any load with flapping plastic on the back will be a challenge for any horse to pass. Again, stopping will help to minimise the movement of the plastic.
  5. Heed the hand signals of horse handlers and riders.

It's often forgotten that under UK law, horses have right of way over traffic on the roads. Whilst this shouldn't be abused, the highway code clearly states "When passing animals, drive slowly. Give them plenty of room and be ready to stop. Do not scare animals by sounding your horn, revving your engine or accelerating rapidly once you have passed them. Look out for animals being led, driven or ridden on the road and take extra care... Look out for horse riders’ and horse drivers’ signals and heed a request to slow down or stop."

If you need help to get your horse more confident around traffic, please consider one of our Understanding Horses courses

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Horse handling for the less confident person

We had lovely weather on Saturday for our popular course "Horse handling for the less confident person". This confidence building day is about learning how to be in be control of horses and ponies -whether they are loose, whether we are interacting with them in small/enclosed spaces, or if we are leading them.

We always tailor the course towards the individual needs of the participants and the particular issues they would like to address. On this course, one of the special topics we covered was catching the "difficult to catch horse or pony", which is one of my favourite subjects. Once people learn to understand horse body language, and understand how their own human body language affects the horse, catching is no longer a problem. Being able to go out and interact with our herd of ponies means that people can practice their skills. Faye helps students to interpret the signals from the ponies, and helps students to perfect their techniques.
We finished the day by taking Muddy for a walk - this helped to bring all the day's teaching together. Everyone was able to confidently handle him, even though Muddy was an unfamiliar pony to them, and participants were able to deal with different scenarios, such as what to do if your pony refuses to move...and how to safely pass tractors and traffic.

We received excellent feedback ratings about all the aspects of the course - for the quality of the teaching, the theory and practical content, and the overall experience on the day.

Feedback comments "Great to be able to put it all into practice. Good balance of theory and practical. Certainly made us think about how our actions give reactions to the ponies".

Photos from the day: above - Faye teaching in the yard, with pony Bobby and course participant Louise listening to the instructions! Below - (left) putting the theory and techniques into practice on each other, before trying it with the ponies. (upper right) A very nice example of how to ask a pony to take a few steps backwards. (Lower right) Returning to the yard with Muddy after taking him for a walk to put the day's teaching into practice.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Understanding Horses and the Devon Association of Smallholders (DASH)

Whilst I have been busily working on the new UH project, I've also had confirmation that the Devon Association of SmallHolders (DASH) are going to be offering an Understanding Horses course in this year's training schedule.

DASH members are being offered the opportunity to enrol on "A guide to horse and pony management", and a date has been set for Saturday September 11th 2010. The day is designed for anyone who is thinking of taking on a horse or pony (for conservation grazing, working on the small holding or for leisure purposes) and we will cover topics such as stable and field set-up and management; feeding; worming; hoof and health care - including how to recognise and avoid common health problems. Full details will be published in the June issue of the DASH magazine and, from June, on the DASH website

Monday, 17 May 2010

An exciting new project is on its way...

The last week or so, I've been very busily engaged in preparing to launch an exciting, new project. All will be revealed very soon, but perhaps a few clues... definitely involves ponies, including these handsome chaps and their friends,

...the beautiful Devon countryside,

...and people enjoying a wonderful family day out...

...And it should be launched in the next few weeks. Keep an eye on the blog for more details...

Friday, 7 May 2010

Restricting grazing, weight management and laminitis prevention

Having been out to see two little ponies today, I must stress the importance of restricting grazing for ponies and managing their weight. Native ponies are designed for rough grazing, something that is very rarely available to them nowdays. Most of us own improved pasture land with lush, green grass and it's too good for little ponies. If unrestricted with their grazing, ponies put on weight very quickly, and all too often this results in laminitis.

Restricting grazing is the kindest thing you can do to keep your pony healthy. Ponies need a high fibre, low sugar diet and you can supplement their diet with soaked hay to ensure they have enough fibre going through their system. They should not be starved. I recommend owners use a weigh tape so they can monitor and manage the weight of their horse or pony throughout the year.

If you are in the unfortunate situation where your horse or pony is displaying signs of laminitis, you must take your horse off the grass immediately. Filling a stable with stable shavings can provide a comfortable surface for them to stand on. Soak hay thoroughly to remove sugars and there are hay replacements (designed specifically for laminitics) available in feed stores. Make sure you cut out feeding carrots and sugary snacks . Contact your vet or farrier/hoof care practitioner for advice.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Exmoor Pony Society Parade and AGM

Today I went to the Exmoor Pony Society stallion parade and AGM, held at Raleghs Cross on the eastern edge of Exmoor. It was a lovely, warm, sunny day and just perfect for spectating at the stallion parade. About 10 stallions were shown in the parade, followed by 4 youngstock who were making their debut appearances.

Photos from the Open Day

Thank you very much to Graham Willson who took photos at the open day on's a couple of photos of Faye in action with the ponies around the display area. Frodo the little white and brown (skewbald) pony quite often takes a role in our courses. Just because ponies are little, doesn't mean they are the easiest or best behaved...and Frodo is a very good pony to learn from!! Ginger's losing lots of coat and really enjoys a bit of massage...hence the nose wiggling!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

People4ponies Open Day

Sunday was a very busy day, spent helping all the other volunteers to prepare Horseford Farm for the annual people4ponies open day. There's always lots to do - putting up tents, displays, signs and stalls, but there is a great team spirit and as they say...many hands make light work! Some Understanding Horses students came to help as's great to support the charity and all the good work they do.

Bank holiday Monday was the open day itself, and it attracted lots of families who enjoyed meeting all the ponies and watching the pony handling displays. Understanding Horses had our display there to promote the courses we hold at Horseford Farm. Faye was helping around the yard with logistics, handling ponies during the displays, meeting visitors and answering their questions about the ponies

The open day visitors were very generous with their donations and purchases of plants, food, books and bric-a-brac...and all the money raised on the day will go straight into looking after and rehabilitating the ponies.

Friday, 30 April 2010

New Understanding Horses course dates released - Horse courses in Devon

We've just released new summer dates for our equine courses in Devon. Whether you are looking to learn more about horse psychology, behaviour, equine problem solving...or if you want to develop your knowledge, confidence and skills, we have the perfect course for you! All our clients are giving "excellent" ratings for the standard of teaching on our courses, as well as for the overall Understanding Horses experience on the day.

Visit the "Courses" page of the Understanding Horses website for full details of the courses we have on offer.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

We'll be at the p4p Open Day

People4ponies are having their annual open day on bank holiday the 3rd May. They are opening their doors to visitors between 11am-4pm. There will be pony handling demonstrations throughout the day, visitors will get to meet the ponies...and there is a plant sale, tombola, book stall, jams, cakes, and delicious cream teas available all day. It's a wonderful opportunity to support this small charity who are doing such good work. Understanding Horses will have a stand there too to promote the courses we hold at p4p, and Faye will be available to talk with people who are having problems with their horse or pony.

Admission is free and children are very welcome. All the funds raised for people4ponies help them to care for, rehabilitate, train and rehome equines, particularly those who are very traumatised. If anyone would like more information, they can visit or phone Cilla King on 01884 860252.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Horse handling for the less confident person

Today I ran an extra date of "Horse handling for the less confident person", which is one of my favourite days to teach. It's really lovely to see people grow in confidence during the day and begin to realise that they can understand horses and ponies and be comfortable and in control around them. It's really important that people can ask lots of questions and they finally get the answers to why horses do certain things. So often people have observed really interesting equine situations and behaviours, but they feel puzzled as to what was actually happening in that situation. It's great to help them have those light bulb moments when things suddenly fall into place.

In the morning we covered some theory about horse behaviour and psychology, and after practicing our skills human-to-human, we headed out into the field to put the knowledge into practice. In fact, getting to interact with and observe the p4p herd is one of the most popular parts of this course!! The ponies are the best teachers of all!!

After lunch, we looked at how to feel at ease around horses when interacting with them in a stable...and finally, I taught safe leading techniques...which we practised with several different ponies. In the photo, Rocky is really concentrating on his handler during leading practice.
Course feedback:"For me, I really enjoyed spending time in the field with the herd and find their behaviour fascinating...Faye is very good at teaching and has great patience with you and she is very easy to get along with. I asked many questions and she was happy to answer them all. Thank you very much for a great day".

Thursday, 22 April 2010

A visit to NEWC

On Thursday I made a special visit to Buckinghamshire to attend the National Equine Welfare Council AGM. It was a brilliant opportunity to support people4ponies, as well as the ponies in the South West region; to highlight the current equine problems; and to voice points of concern to be addressed by the committee. It was a long day...but well worth the trip to be a voice for the ponies, and p4p. It's wonderful that their work is being recognised at this level!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

New Understanding Horses course

I've just released the first date for our new course "A guide to horse and pony management". It will be running on 15th May and it's a chance for people to spend a day learning about stable and field set-up and management; feeding; worming; hoof and health care - including how to recognise and avoid common health problems. We already have good interest in this course - it's an essential guide for anyone looking to take on or look after a horse or pony.

More Understanding Horses course dates will be released very shortly...

Sunday, 18 April 2010

A guide to choosing your perfect horse or pony

This afternoon, the weather was just perfect for our half day course "A guide to choosing your perfect horse or pony"! We covered everything from producing a bespoke equine "shopping list", to the all important guide and checklist for assessing an equine (for behaviour, skills and health)during a viewing. We ventured out into the sunshine to put the newly found participant knowledge into practice by doing an assessment of a pony.

Here in the photo, we are looking at an effective technique used to check for minor lameness - it can be quite tricky to match the strides of these ponies with little legs - there's not much time between one leg coming up and the next one coming down!...It's not compulsory to lead whilst walking backwards for this technique, it's just useful for teaching it!!
Course feedback: "The quality of the teaching was excellent...The practical, pragmatic, hands-on approach is exactly what I need. I like Faye's calm yet self assured style, which creates a safe environment while stretching me a little so I learn more. The ponies are brilliant!"

Friday, 16 April 2010


On Tuesday, I went to help the owner of a 16.1hh hunting horse called Benson. He's a lovely, well mannered horse in all respects...except for when he's being groomed, being tacked up or having his rug put on or taken off. In these situations, his relatively new owner was finding his reactions very aggressive - he was swinging around with his head and kicking out. Very sensibly, his owner had him checked over by a chiropractor to make sure his responses are not due to any pain or discomfort - and he received the all clear.

On meeting Benson, it was possible to look at understanding and improving his reaction to these 3 situations. We were able to make good progress using the advance and retreat method, which allows us to create a positive association with each activity. Benson has white hairs on either side of his saddle area, and it seems quite clear that at some point in his life he has suffered from saddle damage - which is probably when his negative association with the tacking up process first began. Benson's owner picked up the advance and retreat method very quickly, and for the first time ever, she was able to put a saddle blanket on him with no aggressive reaction at all - he stood calmly and quietly as it was put on, adjusted and taken off.

Benson hates being touched on his chest area and we were able to get him more used to this so that he doesn't react in a negative way. We also started to work on his dislike (or hatred!) of rugging. I could throw my waterproof jacket over Benson, move it around and put the sleeves around his neck and he had no problem with this at all...but when he sees a rug, it's enough for him to start scowling - so that's where we started. Benson has been reacting in these ways for quite a while so his owner will need to be consistent with the advance and retreat technique - there is a lot of history to undo but they have already made some great progress in a short time. Benson is a very sensitive, communicative horse and a real sweetie!

The latest update from the owner, is that she is definitely continuing with the advance and retreat method - after coming back from riding out after our session, her husband commented on how Benson was the calmest they had seen ever him, which is great.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Welcome to the new blog!

A blog seems like a perfect way to keep a journal of Understanding Horses activities. I hope you'll enjoy reading about how we help horses, ponies and owners...